North Korea has tested a new long-range cruise missile capable of hitting much of Japan, state media said on Monday.
According to KCNA, missiles flew as far as 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) during weekend tests.
However, it does not violate UN Security Council resolutions, which have previously resulted in harsh sanctions against North Korea.
Despite food shortages and an economic crisis, it suggests that the country is still capable of developing weapons.
The cruise missile test provides “strategic significance of possessing another effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing our state’s security and strongly containing the military manoeuvres of the hostile forces,” according to KCNA.
According to the US military, the test demonstrated North Korea’s “constant focus on developing its military programme and the threats it poses to its neighbours and the international community.”
It also stated that the United States’ commitment to defending allies South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad.”
According to the news agency Yonhap, South Korea’s military said it was conducting an in-depth analysis of the launches with US intelligence authorities.
This week, top-level officials from the United States, South Korea, and Japan will meet to discuss North Korea’s denuclearization process.
So is this a big deal?
Yes and no.
Some may dismiss this missile test because it was a cruise missile. This type of missile is exempt from UN Security Council sanctions imposed to halt North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Some may see this as Pyongyang’s low-level provocation, perhaps testing the waters to see how they react. It didn’t make the top headlines in South Korea, and it didn’t even make the front page of North Korea’s state newspaper.
So, what’s the big deal?
The issue is that North Korea is demonstrating once again that it is capable of developing new and dangerous weapons despite being subject to strict international sanctions.
These cruise missiles fly low and are difficult to detect, and with a range of 1,500km, they could reach much of Japan.
State media also refers to these missiles as “strategic,” implying that the regime intends to equip them with a nuclear warhead.
Analysts are unsure whether North Korea can miniaturise a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a cruise missile. However, given how far the secretive state has come, no one would bet against it.
Pyongyang may have been quiet since Donald Trump and Kim Jong-talks un’s in Hanoi in 2019.
But that doesn’t mean their weapon designers haven’t been hard at work.
Sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council prohibit North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests.
They are considered more dangerous than cruise missiles by the council because they can carry larger and more powerful payloads, have a much larger ranger, and can fly faster.
A ballistic missile is propelled by a rocket and travels in an arc-like trajectory, whereas a cruise missile is propelled by a jet engine and travels at a lower altitude.
In March, North Korea defied sanctions and tested testing ballistic missiles, which triggered a strong rebuke from the US, Japan and South Korea.
The latest launch came days after a scaled-down military parade was held in Pyongyang to mark the communist state’s 75th founding anniversary.
It did not show any major ballistic missiles, but it did show workers in hazmat suits, which could indicate that a special force was formed to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that as of August 19, North Korea had recorded no cases of Covid-19, though critics argue that this is unlikely.
To stop the spread of the virus, the country closed its borders in January 2020, causing trade with its most important economic ally, China, to plummet.
Since then, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has acknowledged that the country is experiencing food shortages, despite reports from aid organisations of a struggling economy and people starving to death.
However, Pyongyang’s nuclear plans have not been thwarted.
The United Nations Atomic Energy Agency said last month that the country appeared to have restarted a reactor capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, calling the development “deeply troubling.”